Tumblefolk Tempest

Discussion in 'Community Games' started by Nomorebirds, Jan 15, 2018.

  1. Nomorebirds

    Nomorebirds Active Member

    Earlier last year, me and Toad Racer joined forces in order to make a video game. Him programming, me doing the art, and both of us weighing in on the design.

    It's been roughly 7 months of on and off development at this point, and we've reached the deadline we set for ourselves today. The game is clearly not finished, and even though it could use a lot more time in the oven, we still really wanted to get it out there. We could've kept pushing back revealing it forever until we felt completely confident in it, but we think it's better to have it just be a thing that exists, get feedback on it, and be able to talk about it openly.

    So with that being said, I introduce Tumblefolk Tempest.


    Tumblefolk Tempest
    is a singleplayer, turn-based, high score (sorry Keith), tactical game.

    For some reason, in this magical nameless desert, there is a race of nomadic hapless creatures known as the Tumblefolk, that make their homes inside of tumbleweeds. Unfortunately that means they get blown wherever the wind takes them, and in this case, there happens to be a gigantic cactus patch that they're heading towards!

    You play as Nimbus, a cute little wind elemental.


    Being a wind elemental, she has the ability to create "wind tethers". Creating wind tethers is the primary way you interact with the game state, one could think of it as the core action of the game. When on top of any unit you can start drawing a wind tether. A tether is complete as soon as you connect to another unit, and every turn you can make one connection.


    Tumblefolk will normally just move to the right 1 space every turn, but units that are on a wind tether, follow along it's path instead. With this power you can stop the Tumblefolk from hurtling towards their doom in the cactus patch.

    Another cool thing you can do with wind tethers is to trigger what we call a "tornado". If you make a connection from the front of a wind tether to the back of the same tether, creating a closed loop, you will trigger a tornado. A tornado rotates the positions of all the units that were on the tether.

    So using wind tethers can delay Tumblefolk from the cactus patch, but in order to fully save them (and earn points) you need to use a magical portal to transport them to safety.


    The portal can be tethered to, just like a Tumblefolk, but doesn't move to the right every turn.
    When a Tumblefolk connects with the portal, it activates. Saving all the Tumblefolk that happen to be in the pink spaces around it.

    After the Portal has been activated, it needs to be recharged before being used again. To do that, simply make a tornado anywhere on the board.

    There's more to explain, but those are the basics and should give you an idea of how it's played.

    I hope you all will give it a shot and share your thoughts with us. It is very much a work in progress though, so take that into consideration when you encounter its rough edges. Also, just a warning, it has no sound, music, or really any animation... (maybe in the future though!)

    You can download it here https://toadbird.itch.io/tumblefolk-tempest
    And if there are any problems or questions, let us know!
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
    richy, Batlad, keithburgun and 2 others like this.
  2. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    This is so exciting! I'll check it out tonight.
    Nomorebirds and Toad_Racer like this.
  3. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Okay so I played for about 20 minutes! Here are my thoughts.

    Art is amazing. Love the colors and stuff. My only suggestion about art is that maybe things could be a little less detailed. The main character is really cool but if they were a bit simplified it might just look like a better design. Graphic design is also pretty nice. I also love this rocks theme for the menu elements, really cool.

    Management of information horizon is good!! You can do a reasonable amount of calculation, and that's it, it seems to me. Also, good basic core mechanism, with the stuff moving right and creating the paths. Pretty easy to learn overall which is good.

    Right now it needs more complexity somehow, IMO. Like if there were characters that had powers, that might be good. Or if I could do something other than just the core action of moving and creating the paths. Or if there was some other resource(s) that created more long-arcs.

    As a game (as in my prescriptive sense of the word), I think it could use those kinds of things. It's a little thin right now just in terms of interactivity, but also matches don't feel like they have a lot of identity, in terms of beginning, middle, and end. Structure over time is crucial for a strategy game, and it's almost totally missing right now. And yeah, that kind of can't be answered without answering a lot of other questions (as well as getting rid of the high score concept).

    Basically what I'm saying there is that I'm guessing it would be too much work and it would change the game too much to make it into a strong strategy game from where it is now. Instead what I would probably advocate is that you just keep expanding on the tutorial and just make a ton of puzzles for it, and embrace it as a puzzle system. I think that would allow you to keep introducing new features and verbs and stuff in a way that makes sense to players. Also I think it would allow you to (if you wanted) add some loose narrative stuff between the puzzles or something.

    The puzzle route is the practical route from here, and if you guys don't wanna spend more than another 6 months or so on the game I would go that direction. With that said, if you feel really ambitious about it, I think there's a ton of possibility for it to become a great strategy game. But I think it needs a lot more complexity; maybe twice what's here. And not just on-the-grid stuff, because you don't wanna increase the calculation stuff too much.

    As it stands now, it's cool, and fun enough for a little while, but the "way you play" is a little without structure. It feels like it would be too easy to kind of "keep the game going" for a long time. There isn't a clear feeling of an arc of tension. Even Rogue-likes have the tension-increase markers of "oh wow now I'm on level 15, this is really deep in the dungeon, I am reaching the end-game here" kind of thing.

    Stepping back and looking at this from a less Keith-ish kind of way, I would say something to think about is making the goal more clear. I mean, firstly in the Keith sort of way you do have the high score "what am I trying to do" issue. But I also understand players are used to that problem and they won't see it as a problem. But another issue is just sort of thematically/mechanically, I feel like it should be more clear what I'm trying to do. I get that it's bad if the little guys go into the cactus patch (I guess - although aren't they plants too? They almost look like cactuses themselves), but I am not just trying to keep them from doing that, I'm also getting points for putting them into these teleporters. That's kind of weird. I know you sort of explained it but it's the kind of thing that could use a lot of explanation. Maybe there's some better thematic hook for this.

    Overall, great work! It's really cool to see what you guys have been working on and I'm looking forward to patch notes and stuff.

    Also let me know if you want music for the game, I'd be down to help out with that.
    richy, Toad_Racer and Nomorebirds like this.
  4. Nomorebirds

    Nomorebirds Active Member

    I definitely agree with pretty much everything you said. Even the puzzle part. When Toad first put in the tutorial puzzles, I tried them out, and told him something like "maybe we should've just made a puzzle game!"

    "Thin" is a pretty fair way to describe what we have here. It needs something, whether that be a a deeper strategy space in the form of more complexity/longer arcs, or just more content in the form of puzzles. Definitely a lot to discuss about the future, and where we want to go with it, only time will tell.

    Thanks for the detailed feedback Keith.

    And if you're offering to do some music for us, that would be amazing!
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018
  5. richy

    richy Well-Known Member

    Well I won't say I really knew what I was doing, but I really like the way it's presented (art direction bravo!) and the clean responsive tactility it had which was nice to mess around with for a while. I think those are probably important things to have at this point (i.e. attract playtesters).

    I could see there were an assortment of mechanics and stuff mixed up in there with the different kinds of tumblefolk and those different tile features, but I couldn't really figure out from the tutorial everything (or really anything haha!) of what was going on, and only got a very basic idea of how to operate the tether. Thematically it's rather a weird scenario isn't it!

    Rather than recommending all the work of a more detailed tutorial, maybe it would be good if @Toad_Racer made one of those videos of him playing the game for a few minutes to show some of the cool things in operation. I remember somebody (Blake?) did that with Auro in the early days and it sort of made you think "ooooohhh I see, yeah that is pretty cool!" when initially you might have bounced off the game because it was so dense and complex.

    It looks really promising though - great work guys! The program worked fine on a crappy old laptop - score 1 for good old Java. I thought it might have hung once or twice but that might be because I got in a corner with no valid actions.
    Hopenager and Toad_Racer like this.
  6. Toad_Racer

    Toad_Racer Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the feedback Keith. It would definitely be hard to turn Tumblefolk Tempest into a great, long arc, strategy game. But I think pure tactics games like Auro and Tetris are perfectly valid (I might even be inclined to argue that they are better than long arc games). There's a middle ground between a series of static puzzles and a long arc strategy game, and I think that's a good place for TT.
  7. Toad_Racer

    Toad_Racer Well-Known Member

    @richy Thanks for your feedback! Sorry you had trouble though, I'll have a video up soon.
  8. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    I would also really look forward to an advanced tutorial thing where you play and point out cool stuff.
  9. Toad_Racer

    Toad_Racer Well-Known Member

    Tutorial Walkthrough:

    Match Commentary:
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  10. Hopenager

    Hopenager Active Member

    I've played about half an hour of this and find it pretty fun, for a tactics game.

    I agree that one of the major issues right now is the lack of long-term structure. @keithburgun suggested that to add structure you'd have to get rid of the high score system, but I don't think that's true. There is something holding this game (and most other high score games) from having long-term structure, but it isn't the fact that it uses a high score system. It's the variability in match length. It's harder to have a well defined "late-game" when a match can last either 100 or 500 turns. And though most high score games have wildly varying match length, there is no good reason that they have to. It's completely conceivable for a high-score game to last a constant amount of time, and I don't see any reason why it would be impossible to add structure to such a game, or even merely more difficult than it is to add structure to a win/loss game.

    Right now this game definitely has highly variable match length, and that will make it pretty hard to add structure. So I think it would be best to make the match length constant, or at least far less variable. To do this, you could just a turn counter instead of energy, that just counts down from 30 or whatever, and the game ends when it reaches 0. To avoid removing the energy mechanics you already have built in to the system, you could turn energy into a resource that is used for something other than increasing the match length (maybe activating abilities? Or just work it into an entirely new system).
    Toad_Racer likes this.
  11. RyanRothweiler

    RyanRothweiler Well-Known Member

    Getting an error :(
  12. Toad_Racer

    Toad_Racer Well-Known Member

    What version of Java do you have? If not Java 8, then try updating.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
  13. RyanRothweiler

    RyanRothweiler Well-Known Member

    java version "1.7.0_79"
  14. Toad_Racer

    Toad_Racer Well-Known Member

    Alright, I think updating Java to the most recent version should fix it.
  15. richy

    richy Well-Known Member

    Thanks for doing the videos - it makes perfect sense now!

    A couple of thoughts came to mind:

    Does the player avatar bring anything to the game? By which I mean could the placement of wind tethers be achieved just by 'drawing' them with the mouse? It looks like there aren't any places where the avatar can't go, even if tiles are occupied, so exclusive tile occupancy doesn't seem to be it. And a lot of times you do that little square move to recharge the vortex which seems a bit redundant - surely in the vast majority of cases you could more efficiently double click the vortex or something to recharge it.

    Thinking about strategy (I know you're focused on tactics but just thinking out loud!) perhaps something might be done with the clans. Firstly wouldn't it be nice if the tumblefolk didn't just disappear but were displayed at the top or something in their 'sanctuary' or wherever it is you send them with smiles on their terrified little faces?! (It's surprising how little difference there is mechanically between 'save these people from imminent death by pushing them into this tornado' and 'kill these people by pushing them into this tornado'!) With the savees displayed, you'd be able to strategise based on how many of the different clans you save, and acquire clan-specific bonuses. E.g. the tile features ('vacuum' etc.) which currently exist from the start might be things you earned, and placed yourself, based on saving different clan folk. Obviously this would require lots of knock-on changes so as I say, just brainstorming here! You've probably considered stuff like this already.

    Minor thing, the board feels maybe just slightly cramped? When the vortex is level 3 it can cover virtually everything. I guess that's part of the design? What are the design factors on this - e.g. if there were say two more lanes what would it affect - what would be better and worse?

    Anyway I hope none of that's taken as criticism! I'm only thinking about it because even at this stage TT seems really fascinating to think about, which has to be good, right? :)
    Nomorebirds likes this.
  16. Toad_Racer

    Toad_Racer Well-Known Member

    No problem, glad it helped!

    Yes they could. The avatar is just for flavor.

    Double clicking the vortex to recharge it wouldn't be mechanically the same as doing a 1 unit tornado. It's not always possible to do a 1 unit tornado, and when it is possible you often have to waste abilities to do it.

    I'm not opposed to adding some long arcs to the game. I just don't think lacking them is a fatal flaw and I'm also a bit skeptical of certain types of them.

    Yeah a tumblefolk sanctuary would be cool. We thought about doing something like that, but it never made it onto the todo list.

    Clan-specific bonuses could be interesting. I'm worried about adding any extra barriers to ability usage though. Right now I'd rather make them easier to use, not harder.

    Honestly we haven't really experimented with different sizes. 5x5 just felt good. There's enough room to do stuff, it fits on screen nicely, and its easy to see the whole board at once. I imagine that the main effect of making it bigger would be to lengthen the information horizon.

    Yeah that's great! Thanks for your feedback!
    richy likes this.
  17. Toad_Racer

    Toad_Racer Well-Known Member


    Maybe it's holding it back somehow, but just setting a fixed match length isn't going to do anything to improve the game on its own. Unless we come up with a concrete idea that will concretely benefit from fixing the match length, then I'm not going to worry about it.
    Hopenager likes this.
  18. Nomorebirds

    Nomorebirds Active Member

    The original theme actually was about protecting a city from "wind demons". The portal was instead a "guardian" that fought the demons and killed them (which as you say, is mechanically identical to teleporting things away).

    We eventually decided to do a 180 degree flip and make it about saving things, lemmings style, instead of killing them.
  19. richy

    richy Well-Known Member

    Hah - I bet the tumblefolk still think of the cacti as demons in their folk legends anyway!

    About what @Toad_Racer said with making the abilities easier to use, maybe two birds could be killed ... er ... I mean saved with one stone. Like the special tiles might be the sanctuaries and you'd have to get the t-folk to them instead of into the vortex (not sure where the vortex would fit in then though). Maybe also some kind of bonuses for taking the folk to their clan's preferred sanctuary like e.g.

  20. Toad_Racer

    Toad_Racer Well-Known Member

    Hmm, interesting idea. Not sure we'd want to reduce the number of ability tiles to 2 though.

    Towards the beginning we were actually thinking about giving the tumbles some abilities that were only triggered whenever they were rescued/died. The problem was that we didn't want crazy abilities being activated on accident all the time. We were afraid it might make the game into a proofreading puzzle.

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